By Charlotte Lane
I recently read a curious story that concerns me, but gives me a good topic to discuss with you. This is something that may seem obvious, but you may not think of it very often. Recent natural gas explosions in homes near Charleston and in Pennsylvania spark me to remind you that when you sniff that slightly sickening odor of natural gas in your home, do something. Now.
The Public Service Commission’s Gas Pipeline Safety Division inspects hundreds of miles of pipeline every year. We remind you every chance we get to call 811 before you dig so you don’t accidentally hit an underground gas line. But nothing we can do will guarantee that you never have a gas leak in your home. That’s why natural gas utilities introduce that sulfurous smell into the gas as a warning to you.
Natural gas does not naturally smell. So the scent you sniff when you turn on a burner on the stove or a gas-fired fireplace was placed deliberately there to get your attention. If you smell it, take heed. Something may not be right.
Turn off the appliance. If you can’t turn off the appliance, or if you turn it off, but the smell is still there, get out of the house. Natural gas is lighter than air. It displaces oxygen. Enough of a buildup can lead to an explosion or to asphyxiation. Once you, your family, and your pets are safe, call the proper utility, or call 911 and they will alert the utility.
People were injured and killed when those homes exploded in West Virginia and in Pennsylvania this summer. Those explosions were caused by natural gas leaks in the houses. I’m sure the families who experienced those tragedies wish they had gotten clear and called for help.
Utility workers have the knowledge and the equipment to handle a gas leak. You do not. And while I am at it, let me say this idea of spotting a problem and alerting the proper utility applies across the board. If you see a downed power line, or water erupting from the ground, call the affected utility or 911 and help will be on the way.
Remember if you see – or smell – signs of trouble, get to safety and call for help.